3 Things Leaders Don’t Do in Times of Crisis

We are still in the midst of an unprecedented time in our country and world, with so many unknowns related to COVID-19 and its impact on quite literally everything. Last week, I wrote about 4 things leaders do in times of crisis based on my observations of leaders in action.

Well, we’ve been on this train of crisis for over a week now locally, and just like there are observations about how to behave as a leader, I’ve been exposed to how not to behave as a leader during times of distress.

Through further observations, here are three things leaders don’t do in times like these:

1. They don’t make the crisis about themselves. It has almost become laughable as one person has described to me how an appointed task force leader has responded to his newly appointed role as leader given the crisis. Every day, there is a new story about this leader being anything but a leader through his actions, all of which are tied to him making everything about himself.

From the pronouns he uses (I, me, my) when he addresses a group or individual about the situation, to the fact that not even a week into the situation he said he had to “take some time off” because of the impact the situation was having on him (while everyone else on the task force and those he is leading remain at work 14-16 hours a day). I am constantly amazed at how some people have no perspective on the bigger picture of a crisis of this or any proportion. They instead choose for it to be an opportunity to draw attention to themselves and their position instead of modeling what it means to be a leader through their own behavior.

In addition, organizations that are not on the forefront of fighting this epidemic don’t come out and act like the largest martyrs of this situation. Yes, this is going to hurt all businesses and peoples’ livelihoods and this is tragic. But when I get an email from a vineyard I’ve visited while traveling where I bought one bottle of wine and their email basically implies that the tragedy is theirs and theirs alone to bear, it makes me want to vomit (and never buy wine from them again). Kris Dunn has some similar thoughts in one of his recent posts. Check it out.

To be a leader in a crisis, realize it’s all about everyone else, not you.

2. They don’t neglect their own health. Having said that leaders realize it isn’t all about them may make this second point seem counterintuitive, however, you can’t lead if you are so sick or burnt out. Being sick or so exhausted you can’t function takes away from your ability to help others. When you can, sleep. When you can, exercise. When you can, eat right. And realize that doing all of this really happens before a crisis even hits. Instilling healthy habits when there isn’t a crisis helps to ensure they will continue even in times of crisis. This gives you the reserves to manage the crisis when you don’t have time for the things that you normally do to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

In this situation given a pandemic, this also involves following the proper protocols to not contract and spread the illness.

To be a leader in a crisis, you have to take care of yourself in good times and bad.

3. They don’t check their humanity and the humanity of others at the door. Leading during a serious time calls for serious thoughts and actions. However, the things that make us uniquely human and make living worth living through difficult times are our ability to laugh and love. True leaders during these times don’t neglect the small points of holiness that are demonstrated through laughter and love.

I’ve enjoyed more funny videos this week as people have sent them trying to lift others out of the anxiety this situation is creating, even if it is only for a few moments.

Some of my favorites:

I’ve taken more time to enjoy the sheer joy in our seven-month old’s giggles this week.  There really is nothing better than a baby laughing and smiling.  So I’ll leave you with a glimpse of that here: 

To be a leader in a crisis, you have to still live, laugh, and love. 

Mary Ila Ward

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